Scot McKnight: The Eschatology of Politics
What Election Day might reveal about the hopes of evangelicals.

by Scot McKnight

Somewhere between 6pm and 8pm, Central Time, on November 4th, 2008, the eschatology of American evangelicals will become clear. If John McCain wins and the evangelical becomes delirious or confident that the Golden Days are about to arrive, that evangelical has an eschatology of politics. Or, alternatively, if Barack Obama wins and the evangelical becomes delirious or confident that the Golden Days are about to arrive, that evangelical too has an eschatology of politics. Or, we could turn each around, if a more Democrat oriented evangelical becomes depressed and hopeless because McCain wins, or if a Republican oriented evangelical becomes depressed or hopeless because Obama wins, those evangelicals are caught in an empire-shaped eschatology of politics.

Where is our hope? To be sure, I hope our country solves its international conflicts and I hope we resolve poverty and dissolve our educational problems and racism. But where does my hope turn when I think of war or poverty or education or racism? Does it focus on November 4? Does it gain its energy from thinking that if we get the right candidate elected our problems will be dissolved? If so, I submit that our eschatology has become empire-shaped, Constantinian, and political. And it doesn't matter to me if it is a right-wing evangelical wringing her fingers in hope that a Republican wins, or a left-wing evangelical wringing her fingers in hope that a Democrat wins. Each has a misguided eschatology.

Now before I take another step, it must be emphasized that I participate in the election; and I think it makes a difference which candidate wins; and I think from my own limited perspective one candidate is better than the other.

But, participation in the federal election dare not be seen as the lever that turns the eschatological designs God has for this world. Where is our hope? November 4 may tell us. What I hope it reveals is that:

Our hope is in God. The great South African missiologist, David Bosch, in his book Transforming Mission impressed upon many of us that the church's mission is not in fact the "church's" mission but God's mission. Our calling is to participate in the missio Dei, the mission of God in this world. So, at election time we can use the season to re-align our mission with the mission of God. Therein lies our hope.

Our hope is in the gospel of God. God's mission is gospel-shaped. Some today want to reduce gospel to what we find in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, while others want to expand it to bigger proportions (and I'm one of the latter), we would do well at election time to re-align ourselves once again with the gospel as God's good news for our world. Therein lies our hope.

September 26, 2008

Displaying 1–10 of 23 comments


October 02, 2008  5:36pm

I am really tired of the term "evangelical" being used. All Christ-ones are to be spreaders of the Good News and Doers of the Word. Each person has his unique walk. Take the label away. No two Christians have the same personal relationship with God the Father through the Son. No two believe or know the exact same thing. The HOLY SPIRT teaches us as we grow in knowledge and grace. I do believe that a Christian cannot ride on the coat-tails of his/her particular church, or ANY so-called leader. Each of us is alone to work out our salvation, walk in the Spirit and walk in the works that God prepared for us. There are no super Christians, except the ones we DO NOT KNOW, only God knows. The people of this country had better get a handle on HISTORY, and be guided by the Word of God and praying for God's guidance in thought, word, and deed. Knowledge of God and true relationship is essential. Can't have that without praying with Him and having the sure hope that is only in knowing Him. We need a spiritual perspective in this world. We need to become more like the human Christ was as He walked this Earth. This doesn't come but by obeying and trusting God. Jesus did this daily. God's promises are to those who truly know Him. The discipline of prayer and obedience are part of living a life and receiving the promises of God.

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Fernando Villegas

October 02, 2008  12:48pm

Just to add to Url's response to Andy: To reduce the Republican party to torture/war/greed is as unfair as religious right christians reducing Christianity to abortion and gay marriage. I am a republican, and I recognize that there is much wrong with my party, as there is much wrong with the democrat party. But I am against torture, and I believe that greed is messing up our economy. Basically, I am a republican because I believe that the fundamental problems that we face as a nation are beyond the scope of the government to fix. I believe it is the private sector–and primarily the Church–that can best care for the poor, heal the sick, and promote peace and justice. I harbor no ill will towards democrats. I believe of the vast majority of them that their intentions are good. We just disagree on method. Surely we can debate method in a civil way, without "celebrating the loss of evangelicals" or equating the republican party with the disobedient son of Matthew 21.

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October 02, 2008  8:26am

Yes, but. That Obama hope sign is a joke, right?

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October 02, 2008  1:22am

I think we all make decisions every day. And we make them based on our experience and believes. As a Christian I make my decisions based on what I have in my heart, in my spirit and what I know about the word of God. Whether it is to buy a car, take a vacation or vote in the presidential elections. There is a passage in Mathew 21:28-31, that always remind me of the two parties, republicans and democrats . This was Jesus speaking and it goes like this: "What do you think? There was a man that had two sons , He went to the first and said, ‘son go and work today in the vineyard. ‘I will not, he answered', but later changed his mind (repented) and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir', but did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?". Need I say which one is the sweet talker ( the party), that tells the evangelicals everything they want to hear ? He is ‘ morally right ‘, but institutionalized corruption, he is against raising the minimum wage, created a war motivated by greed and profits without any regard for human life and based on lies, he is against universal health care for the people ( it will benefit the poor , the rich have no problem .), fought in favor of the tobacco companies, against a background check to buy a gun, he thinks its ok to torture, etc … and we get all this as a trade off for a promise to criminalize abortion !. this brings me to another passage in Mathew 9:10-13. The Pharisees asked Jesus disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners'? When Jesus heard that, He said to them , ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and LEARN what this means: "I desire mercy and not sacrifice." For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.' The other brother?. Complete opposite. They can not both be right, they could both be wrong , but they could not both be right. But we have to make a decision . My decision will be based on mercy. Just as Jesus had mercy on me ( a sinner ), I will have mercy on others.

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September 30, 2008  4:21pm

Yes, but. That McCain peace sign is a joke right?

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Ed Honorat

September 30, 2008  1:34pm

I'd like to be make it as simplistic as possible. God knows the beginning and knows the end being. God knows the candidate who will succeed and the consequences of that. The exercise is OBEDIENCE, pure and simple. Most of us in the body of Christ receive some form of information from the Spirit of God when in communion with Him. Seek (in prayer and meditation) who will be more beneficial to the kingdom and obey. It really has nothing to do with WINNING or LOSING since quite often the unwarranted result is nothing but a corrective or repositioning mesure for the good of the kingdom. Our obedience to God's guidance is really what we're facing, it could'nt be more simple. If our choice (vote) fails which will be the case for a lot of us, the joy and satisfaction of staying obedient to our Lord makes it not only bearable but spiritually fulfilling.

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Christina Archer

September 30, 2008  1:08pm

Hooray, hooray. God is far beyond any ideology!! Our hope is God- no less, and any attempt to limit God: the God of grace,compassion and love leads to blasphemy! Thank you for pointing this out, Mr. McKnight. Don't forget, the killing of the Christ was due, in part to politics.

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September 30, 2008  12:50pm

Our political system is a joke. Our nation is in deep trouble because we separate faith and politics. Money has become the new "god" in this country and it has infiltrated our political parties in a major way. I wouldn't endorse a specific candidate - primarily because I don't believe either party has a good enough representation to lead this country. I would, however, address issues that are of concern within each party. Let the people choose for themselves, but encourage them to study the issues and how each candidate voted on related issues in the past.

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Dave Vander Laan

September 29, 2008  3:10pm

I read Scott's post and said to myself, "Wow - what if cynicism could be banned from politics? What if the hope of the Gospel and 'missio Dei' would become the fabric of our country? What if Jesus would run for president?" Oh wait – since Jesus didn't want to be made king (John 6:14,15), I doubt if he'd run for president. What about as a ‘write-in' candidate, though. Isn't that what Jesus wants already – for his Followers to have his name written in their hearts, across their lives, through their souls, into their minds? Who'd vote for Jesus anyway – he's waaayyy too radical….

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September 29, 2008  9:06am

Andy, I understand your anger, and I'm glad you feel the freedom to express it here. However, let's be mindful of two things. First, "evangelical" is a term that is very hard to define today. Not every "evangelical" is part of the GOP. Neither is everyone in the GOP an "evangelical". So sweeping generalities like yours are often not helpful. Secondly, in the future let's be mindful that many "evangelicals" engage the conversation on this blog. And you might find some (even many) share your leanings. Let's try to make more friends here than enemies. Url

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